Ask a counsellor: How to deal with your bad-smelling friend

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My roommate/friend/instructor/counsellor is… well… pretty gosh darn stinky. And it’s not just a one-time thing. What do I do??

In all honesty, this is a topic that comes up much more often than one would think – and is probably one of the most difficult questions to answer.

One of the big things that makes this topic difficult is that, no matter what you do, somebody’s feelings are likely going to get hurt. To minimize the damage, try not to assume what the origin of the smell is; your problem is with the scent itself, not the particular habits or biology of your friend/counsellor. With that in mind, you will need to weigh the following options and decide which will be most effective to find a solution:

  • Do nothing – Yes, this actually is an option. You may find that someone else has addressed the “smell issue,” or that it is not so offensive that it is distracting, or that you’d much rather suffer in silence than risk someone else losing face.
  • Tell them directly – “Uh… Freeman? You smell.” If you are willing to be this direct, do not just walk away; be prepared to back up your statement.
  • Avoid hanging out with them – This is a risky move for many reasons, one being that the person may not make the connection between the smell and your sudden disappearance. However, it does allow you to take control over being around the odor.
  • Write it down – In a note or via e-mail, be sure to be clear and succinct. If you’d like to preserve some semblance of a relationship, sandwich the malodorous news between the reasons you value this person. A direct conversation may be required as follow-up; however, writing it first can sometimes ease people into the topic.
  • Discuss the issue with someone else – Maybe there is someone who is closer to the person, in which case it may be best for them to address it. On the other hand, there are also benefits to being the “drop-in stranger” who brings the issue up, thereby allowing the person to question their closer friends about their aroma.

As per usual, feel free to talk with a counsellor about any issues you may have! If you have a question for a counsellor, you can also email it to, and see it featured here!

Emily is in her fourth year of Political Science. She loves studying and academics which follows into her research work. She's a stern black coffee drinker and is a proud Acadienne. When she's not working or doing school work, you can find Emily listening to 70s music on vinyl and watching Parks and Recreation. If you ask her about parliamentary institutions, she won't stop talking.